The Librarians Strike Back

Posted on July 14, 2010 by

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Following the librarians’ strike on the 21st June, which opposed the cuts facing Southampton’s libraries, senior members of the region’s UNISON union branch have met with Southampton City Council to negotiate the cuts.

The aim was to oppose the Councils plans for the libraries: 7 librarian posts are to be replaced by volunteers- who may lack experience, or need to be trained- mainly in Thornhill library, which is to be manned entirely by unpaid staff. The council also plans to close Milbrook library. Currently every borough of Southampton is endowed with a public library, so closing Millbrook could be the first step down a path which leads to a Southampton with perhaps only Central library left. The Blowhole has heard simultaneously that the University may plan to acquire Burgess Road Library, and that the council may be looking ‘for better uses’ for the building. Given the rapid acquisition of land by the university in recent months, it is possible that Southampton will see the closure of more than one library in the next couple of years.

Unfortunately, the Council has not changed its stance on it plans, so a further set of strikes and a petition is planned – although the Blowhole has learned that the UNISON officials and the Council are having further talks and meetings to try and settle the matter, and that the strikes have been cancelled for now.

All of this runs on the back of the lobby of Southampton City Council which happened today (14th July) to protest against the Cuts proposed in these areas:

school meals, children’s care homes, free swimming, school support, community languages…all front-line services…while the new Chief Exec gets £176 000 for delivering less [sic] services for more council tax.

Parents protest in February at Millbrook’s closure

While not every reader may find these services relevant, for some residents this represents a significant portion of their child’s health and education.

Given the new Emergency Budget it is inevitable that financial savings must be made somewhere, so The Blowhole wonders what else could be cut instead, which would be less damaging to the affected people and communities. Perhaps in the construction of the new steel-snd-glass ‘Cultural Quarter’ near the Guildhall? Perhaps having a look at potential future enterprises- do we really need another tennis court, for example? The Council- and the Government, for that matter- should ask their citizens what they really need and don’t need, and look harder at the long term consequences, both financial and cultural, of any cuts that do go ahead.

A protest facebook group has also been set up, called ‘Love your Southampton Libraries’.

One supporter of the campaign against the Library cuts says:

Professional librarians have to have a degree in a relevant subject followed by a postgraduate course in library studies before you even start. after that you have to order books, accession them, arrange inter library loans, answer enquiries, shelve, manage staff, manage journals, manage IT equipment…it goes on and o…n. Get Volunteers to do all that for nothing? They’re having a LAUGH. No one will come forward and the facilities will close. Which is what they secretly want to happen, I suspect – then they can sell the buildings to developers. (I can hear it now…”No one from the community came forward to volunteer, so obviously the demand isn’t there…”)

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Posted in: Comment, News, Southampton